Doctors in Ghana’s public health facilities withdrew emergency services to back their demand for improved allowances and other non-salary benefits, union leaders said in a move that presents a litmus test for the government’s fiscal sustainability.
Ghana, which exports cocoa, oil and gold, is under a three-year aid program with the International Monetary Fund to stabilize its economy, dogged by slowing growth, widening debt and a stubbornly high budget deficit partly attributed to a heavy public wage bill in the last election year.
Beginning Friday, some 2,000 doctors would only attend to in-patients, Kwabena Opoku Adusei, president of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) said. The action would mostly affect the poor and underprivileged who depend solely on public health care. Adusei said doctors would embark on a full strike on Aug. 14 if negotiations with the government failed to yield results.
The West African nation is also grappling with prolonged electricity outages which have crippled industries, leading to stunted economic growth and angered voters ahead of elections next year.
Apart from the doctors, university teachers have also announced withdrawal of services over delays in the payment of their book and research allowances.
Other public sector workers, including psychiatric nurses, have also threatened to strike. Finance Minister Seth Terkper said the government would only offer to public sector workers what is “manageable” under the current fiscal constraints so as not to jeopardize the fiscal stabilization program under the IMF deal.